I’m So Glad My Parents Were Squares

gamepicFriends, I just lost a day of my life.

It wasn’t an amnesia-inducing camel accident, but something altogether more insidious: an iPhone game. Since yesterday morning, I have played Ticket to Ride over forty times. Y’all, it seemed harmless enough! It’s a simple concept: players build train lines across the US, connecting routes they’ve randomly drawn, before everyone else finishes. The game caters to people who’ve clamored for a Thomas the Tank Engine edition of Risk. Strategy is more quaint with trains!

Turns out, I’m fucking awesome at it. Want to get from Vancouver to Miami? Done. That dreaded route from Calgary to New York? On it. Being born in the 1980s really screwed me over, because my true calling is railroad barony. Or, perhaps, I am just too easily enthralled by things. That is a distinct possibility. Last year, I spent all summer chucking enraged birds at porcine criminals. Right now, I’m engaged in eight games of Words with My Mother.

All of this has clarified one thing: my parents were really, really smart to outlaw video games in our house. Sure, they claimed we couldn’t have a Nintendo, because of my sister’s epilepsy, but my siblings and I knew the truth. They were totally lame. Along with processed foods and backward baseball hats, video games seemed another arbitrary enemy our parents waged war against.

“Play outside,” they insisted. “Read a book!” Nary a Wii nor a PlayStation would enter their house. My brother snuck systems in from his friends’ houses, but they were too soon ferreted out. As such, my practical video game skills are sadly lacking. I’m the one who spends all of Halo running into walls, until I’m shot in the head by my exasperated compatriots. My Mario-kart always comes in last. A blind-folded lemur would be better at FIFA than I am. Though, to be fair, the lemur would also probably know more about soccer…

As a kid, though? I would have played those games, until I reigned supreme…or died from dehydration. I am unable to start something, without wanting to conquer it. Only, since my parents banned ALL THE FUN from our house, wee Grace instead conquered things like reading all the Amelia Peabody mysteries and sewing. I can cook a mean pot roast, change my own headlights, and paint impressionist blobs that vaguely resemble people. Had we been allowed to play video games, I’m pretty sure I would not do any of these things nearly so well. Graduating high school may also have been questionable.

It’s not that I think video games are bad. To be honest, I think they’re a really interesting and vital part of modern culture. Plenty of people I know play them well and often, without going down the rabbit hole. Moderation, however, has never been my strong suit. It’s probably best that my teenage obsessions were books and dresses – things with an end in sight – rather than World of Warcraft.

While I still think a girl should be able to eat Oreos without worrying about hydrogenated oils, I’m glad my parents were eccentric. Mom and Dad, thanks for being such squares. My Assassin’s Creed skills may suck, but I make pretty killer (hydrogenated oil free!) brownies…which you might never eat again, now that I’m marrying a guy who owns an Xbox.

– Grace

Please Don’t Name Your Child That

My friends are procreating. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. Enough of them are married and/or regularly rolling in the hay. Babies are the obvious, somewhat smelly next step. My Facebook feed has suddenly been taken over by nursery decorations and pictures of pee sticks pregnancy tests. The infants, they draw nigh!

Now, on the whole, I’m pro-baby. Sure, I’m not ready for one (hooray whore pills!), but I can see the appeal: they’re even cuter than kittens, they often smell nice, and someday you’ll get to embarrass them with the naked pictures you take today. That’s a pretty sweet deal. So, when I’m invited to baby showers, I tend to be excited. Buying tiny clothes! Eating cupcakes with gendered icing! Making fun of the impending spawn’s name!

Oh yeah, that last one happens a lot. People are bestowing some terrible appellations on their children, kittens. I know this isn’t new. When Tiffany went from a store to a chart-topping first name, we were pretty much screwed as a species. Some of these modern trends, however, seem especially painful. When it comes time to name your own vomit-slingers, please don’t choose from these options:

Sex & The Twilight Inspired – When you were a wee single lass, you watched Carrie and Big live happily ever after, whispering to your stuffed camel, “Someday, Butternut Cantaloupe, that will be me!” Now, it’s happened and – hooray! – you’re having his bébé. It’s only natural that you’d want to honor your imaginary friends by naming a miniature person after them. I’m just going to caution you, however. If your friends pay too much for shoes, were written by Nicholas Sparks, or sparkle in the sunshine, rethink this decision. Every other kid in your baby sinking swimming classes will be named: Aidan, Noah, Jacob, or Bella.

Chik-Fil-A Spellings – Question: Are you, or have you ever been, a bovine fast food mascot? If not, please use traditionally accepted spellings. Katherine v. Catherine is one thing, but Kathrynne, really? Really!? Your poor child is going to have her name misspelled by every person she meets, from Starbucks baristas to the police officers issuing her that minor-in-possession ticket. Worse, you can’t get mad at her for drinking underage. Repeatedly spelling such a name for twenty years would drive anyone into the arms of Jose Cuervo!

Words That Will Doom You – I know. Just subbing out some letters in an existing name seems too overdone. You want your child to be the most special snowflake amongst all of the special snowflakes ever. Ergo, you’ve decided to really blaze your own path, and pick a word that best encompasses their spirit. Wait – blaze! – that can be a name right? Blaze McGillicutty has a nice ring to it. No, it doesn’t. It has the ring of a child who will one day burn down your house. Children are already crazy, they need no encouragement. Names like Rowdy and Wilder are just dooming you to a toddler who’s even more rambunctious than usual. When you’re peeling stickers off the side of your BMW’s bumper, blame no one but yourself.

Sugar & Spice & Schnookums – Your child came out super hot. Congratulations! Your genes totally own other people’s! However, this is no time to get cocky with your spawn’s name. Just because she’s as cute as button doesn’t mean you should actually name her Button. Just because he’s as sweet as pie doesn’t mean you should name him Pecan. Cutesy nicknames are great – my brother has been called Bunny Boy by my mother for most of his life – but they don’t work as actual names. When she’s five, JuJuBee is adorable. When she’s a 48 year-old podiatrist? Less so.

Now, if your precious preciouskins’ name falls into these categories, my apologies. To each their own! I may snicker a bit about your choice, but I promise to give little Renesmee really great birthday presents. If you went with Torchy, however, I can’t promise he won’t use that set of Harry Potter books as kindling.

– Grace

Real Talk With Grace’s Mom: Marijuana

Most women I know dread becoming their mothers. They’ll say something out of character – whether it be more biting, more conservative, more in line with Wiccan teachings, what have you – and follow it up with, “Oh, God. It’s happening! I’m turning into my Mom!”

This is not a problem for me. My mom is awesome. If, in 30 years, I wake up to find myself identical to her, my life will be a success. She paints, she has a wicked sense of humor, she’s impossible to beat at Trivial Pursuit, and – most of all – she has an amazingly clear-eyed view of human nature. Y’all, my mother knows All The Answers. Sometimes, however, these answers surprise her eldest daughter.

My mom is really great about not prying into my personal life (Unlike my father, whose fears of my impending catladydom have turned him into a deluded matchmaker, convinced my soulmate is the pest control man’s grandson, because “he looks like your type – scruffy, wearing a vest.”), so our relationship conversations are few and far between. Most of the time, they happen because I am in dire need of some advice. Like when I asked “So…would we call a man’s habitual pot smoking a deal-breaker?”

Y’all, I know. I’m a traitor to my generation. Yes, I think marijuana should be legalized and I don’t care if my friends do it, but it’s not something I’m personally into. I hate being drunk, much less high. It’s just not something I can relate to – I prefer all my faculties to be in full, working order. Plus, let’s be honest: I’m paranoid enough. Can you imagine a high version of me? Jesus Christ. That’s a terrifying thought.

So, yeah, I don’t smoke. Quite a few of the men I’ve dated, however, have. It hasn’t bothered me, when it’s only a couple times a month, but when it’s all the time? My brain starts turning. Do I really want to start a relationship with someone who is so fundamentally opposite of me, in this lifestyle choice? What if he chooses smoking over hanging out with me? What if he gets caught? Oh my God, what if I get caught, because I was aware of it and that is also (maybe) a crime? What if he smokes, because if he doesn’t, he turns into the Hulk, thanks to a gamma radiation experiment gone terribly, terribly wrong?

Why, yes, my brain is a terrifying place. Yet, these questions are valid. (Especially the Hulk one – have comic books taught us nothing? Radiation is not to be trifled with, people!) Or, they seemed that way anyway, before I talked with my mother, whose response went a little like this:

Grace, you’re being ridiculous. Some people need pot to relax. Some people need books to relax. Just because you’re the latter doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the former. Be glad he has it in his toolbox and it works. I wish your dad would smoke a bowl sometimes, it would really help him out. Hell, if I get Glaucoma when I’m 80, maybe your friend could hook me up with a reputable dealer. Besides, it’s better for you than cigarettes, unless you’re one of the teenage boys in which it induces psychosis. Does it induce psychosis?  If he’s completely functional, who cares?

Duly noted. So, yeah. My mother is way cooler than I am and, apparently, my dad could use some pot. These are the things a girl learns, when taking advice from Grace’s mom.

– Grace